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Am Jur 2d - Damages § 556

V. Exemplary or Punitive Damages, A. In General, § 556 - Definitions; related terms

"Exemplary[1] or punitive[2] damages" have been defined as damages which are given as an enhancement of compensatory damages because of the wanton, reckless, malicious, or oppressive character of the acts complained of. Punitive damages are different from compensatory or actual damages; they are distinct from and in addition to the actual damage.[3]

The terms "punitive damages" and "exemplary damages" generally have the same meaning.[4]


Punitive damages are not available under the law of some states although when the act involved is wanton, malicious, or oppressive, the compensatory damages awarded may reflect the aggravating circumstances.[5]

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1   Newton v. Hornblower, Inc., 224 Kan. 506, 582 P.2d 1136 (1978) .

2   Ellis v. Golconda Corp., 352 So. 2d 1221 (Fla. 1st DCA 1977) ; Newton v. Hornblower, Inc., 224 Kan. 506, 582 P.2d 1136 (1978) .

3   Wyman v. Terry Schulte Chevrolet, Inc., 1998 SD 96, 584 N.W.2d 103 (S.D. 1998) .
 Compensatory and punitive damages serve different purposes. First Specialty Ins. Co. v. Caliber One Indem. Co., 988 So. 2d 708 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008) .
 Punitive damages are only appropriate in the most egregious cases so as to discourage similar conduct and should only be awarded in cases where the actions are extreme. Warren v. Derivaux, 996 So. 2d 729 (Miss. 2008) .
 As to the definitions of nominal and compensatory damages, see §§ 8 , 24 .

4   Wolf v. Yamin, 295 F.3d 303 (2d Cir. 2002) (applying Connecticut law) ; Alea London Ltd. v. American Home Services, Inc., 638 F.3d 768 (11th Cir. 2011) , cert. denied, 132 S. Ct. 553, 181 L. Ed. 2d 397 (2011) (applying Georgia law) ; Mellen v. Lane, 377 S.C. 261, 659 S.E.2d 236 (Ct. App. 2008) ; CSX Transp., Inc. v. Smith, 229 W. Va. 316, 729 S.E.2d 151 (2012) .

5   Riley v. Harr, 292 F.3d 282 (1st Cir. 2002) (applying New Hampshire law) .

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